NEW ORLEANS - Today, Council Utilities Chair Helena Moreno announced she and her colleagues will be directing Entergy New Orleans to provide $22M of direct bill assistance to residential customers. The City Council Cares (CCC) program would provide New Orleanians rendered unemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic eligible to receive a total of $400 of direct Entergy bill credits, at a maximum of $100 per month for four months. Even more, all current late fees would be waived in concert with the application of the bill credits.
"The economic consequences of this pandemic have created an unprecedented crisis for our community. That's why I believe we must have an unprecedented response to give a lifeline for our most impacted people," said Utilities Chair Moreno. "The CCC's $22M in direct bill assistance will cushion the economic damage our community is suffering and comes at no additional cost to ratepayers."
Councilmember Moreno continued, "I will continue to do whatever it takes to deliver help to our people during this time. In addition to advocating for increased assistance from the Federal LIHEAP program - from which more than $30m of additional funding arrived in Louisiana last week - I'm also proud of the Council's support for suspending Entergy shut-offs through July 1 or longer. These steps are significant, but hardly the end of our efforts to help our community through these difficult times."
The $22M in the CCC, identified by the Council's utilities team, comes from Federal legal settlements and excess disaster preparedness reserves. Entergy New Orleans maintains two storm reserve accounts, one with over $67M and another with $15.5M. All parties agree that the $15.5M is not necessary to maintain a sufficient buffer to secure Entergy against further disasters. The balance of the $22M comes from a FERC legal settlement reached in 2018, the proceeds of which have been held in abeyance.
Eligible individuals would only need to provide proof of unemployment benefits gained consistent with the Federal CARES Act retroactive date of March 29. Those benefits include salaried workers, and for the first time, "gig" and 1099 workers that are often ineligible for benefits. The CCC is expected to provide $100 per month for four months as well as automatically waiving any current late fees due on the applicant's account.
The Council expects the CCC to go live in late June, with the first bill credits delivered in time for the July billing cycle.